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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2144 ..

Financial Management Amendment Bill 2001 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 14 June 2001, on motion by Mr Berry:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (11.10 ): Mr Speaker, the government will be opposing this bill, and our reasoning goes back even before 23 November 1995. When this Assembly first met in 1998 I approached Mr Stanhope when he became Leader of the Opposition, and whilst I was still sitting on the crossbenches before I came to the government I approached Mrs Carnell, and I said that this issue of how to deal with budgets is an issue that we need to resolve. I encouraged Mr Stanhope to take a different approach from what he is taking. It is one that they have considered from time to time, saying they will guarantee a government the right to its budget even though they very strongly disagree with parts of the budget.

Mr Speaker, as has been very clear in this place, I am not pure in this matter at all, having been caught in the enthusiasm of the situation the first time in 1993 when the Labor government wanted to cut 80 teachers from our schools. I was very strongly opposed to cutting those 80 teachers. Mr Speaker, you put up a motion at that time that prevented the government from taking action. As part of the lead-up to the Appropriation Bill, you put up a motion that effectively prohibited the Labor government from cutting the 80 teachers, which would have had the effect of increasing class sizes.

Mr Speaker, in the enthusiasm of that issue I made what I have acknowledged in this place on many occasions; I made a mistake. The mistake I made was to support that motion. Mr Speaker, I think you acknowledge also that it was a mistake for you to use that process.

We have since debated on many occasions how we handle the financial prerogative of the crown, because it is fundamental to the separation of powers. The role of the executive is to make decisions about the expenditure of money, and that is something that is appropriately debated in the Assembly and appropriately exposed in the Assembly. Mr Berry wishes to expose the government for what he considers a ridiculous expenditure of money on free school buses, money which he thinks could be spent better somewhere else. That is an entirely appropriate thing for him to do and to seek to expose. The methodology that he is using here though, which ties the government's hands and will not allow the expenditure of this money, is not appropriate. It is fundamental to the separation of powers, it is fundamental to making sure that the governments in this place can work, that they have their prerogative to work it out.

Mr Speaker, on 23 November 1995 we sought to resolve this issue. We sought to remove it from enthusiasm, whether it is over libraries, or free school buses, or the Labor Party seeking to cut 80 teachers and give us bigger class sizes. No matter what the issue is we ought to say, "No, the government will have to answer to the electorate over those issues. It is their role to manage the money."

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